Sean Webb, Understanding Consciousness Can Lead to Happiness |425|

#1
Sean Webb, Understanding Consciousness Can Lead to Happiness |425|
by Alex Tsakiris | Sep 3 | Consciousness Science
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Sean Webb believes he’s cracked the happiness code with neuroscience and consciousness research.
photo by: Skeptiko
Alex Tsakiris: [00:00:06] Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science and spirituality with leading researchers, thinkers and their critics. As you all know by now, we cover a lot of different topics on Skeptiko, but it seems like we always return to the question of consciousness, and what’s up with that little voice inside your head and why does it seem to always be conspiring to make you unhappy? Well, that’s exactly the question of today’s guest Sean Webb has sought to answer.
As a young smart successful rising star, Sean had achieved everything that should have made him happy, so when he faced the fact that he wasn’t, he decided to find out why. This eventually led to Zen meditation, a deep dive into neuroscience and a spiritual breakthrough that rapidly transformed him from a gun collecting, money driven materialist to a consciousness expert and a spiritual seeker who believes he may have cracked the code to happiness. Sounds good, right?
Well, hold on a minute, because while preparing for this interview, and in true Skeptiko inquiry to perpetuate doubt fashion, I also found some points of disagreement between Sean and I with regard to consciousness. So, what you’re about to hear is an interview with a guy who’s done some truly amazing research and personal transformation work with regard to consciousness and spirituality, but what you might also hear is a good old-fashioned kind of friendly debate among seekers on the path.
This is going to be fun. You rarely find people that are this intelligent and at the same time open, willing to hash things out. Sean, it’s really exciting to have you here on Skeptiko and thanks so much for joining me.
 
#2
"Does mind equal brain?"

I am a 100% believer that consciousness is non-physical and cannot be produced by any physical process (ie the brain). But I also believe that while we are in our bodies, the brain influences consciousness and understanding how the brain influences consciousness is necessary if we want to optimize our experience and effectiveness while we are in our biological bodies. I put this belief into practice and "hack" my own brain. Furthermore, the belief that consciousness is non-physical is also compatible, in some sense, with the belief that consciousness is an illusion.

The brain is not the mind. The evidence for the afterlife, as well as mainstream scientific evidence, and philosophical arguments all support the belief that consciousness is non-physical and cannot be produced by the physical brain.

Evidence for the afterlife:
http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/summary_of_evidence
This evidence includes:
  • Mediumship: Proxy sittings, Drop-in communicators, Cross-correspondences.
  • Near-death experiences, veridical near-death experiences, and shared near-death experiences.
  • Death-bed visions, veridical death-bed visions, and shared death-bed visions.
  • Apparitions and multiple witness apparitions.
  • Children who remember past lives including those with an unusual type of birth mark on their body where an injury was sustained in the previous life.

Nobel Prize winners Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, Brian Josephson, Sir John Eccles, Eugene Wigner, George Wald and other great scientists and philosophers such as John von Neumann, Kurt Gödel, Wernher von Braun, Karl Popper, and Carl Jung believed consciousness is non-physical because of mainstream scientific evidence:
http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/eminent_researchers

Why materialism cannot explain consciousness:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-materialist-explanation-of.html

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/08/consciousness-cannot-be-emergent.html
If you study a lump of brain cells, neither the laws of physics nor any biochemical reactions can explain why subjective experiences feel the way they do. Subjective experiences are known only in terms of subjective experience, not in terms of mathematics, or molecular models, or physics, or chemistry, or biology, or psychology, or sociology. Red looks red. Physics can tell you what wavelengths of light look red, and chemistry can tell you how light is sensed by the retina, and neurology can tell you how the signals from the optic nerve are processed by the brain, but none of that will ever tell a colorblind person what red looks like. Consciousness and physical processes are fundamentally different things.

Thinking you will be able to explain how consciousness emerges by understanding more about a massive number of nerve cells is like trying to make a ham sandwich from bricks. You can't make a ham sandwich from bricks and piling up more and more bricks will never get you any closer to having a ham sandwich.

The subjective experience of consciousness cannot be understood in physical terms therefore, consciousness cannot be a result of any physical process. Consciousness is a fundamentally different thing from any physical process.

My experiences:
http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/psi_experience


"What is the relationship between the brain and the mind?"

The hypothesis that the brain is a filter of non-physical consciousness explains more of the empirical evidence than the hypothesis that the brain produces consciousness, therefore the best explanation of the evidence is that the brain is a filter of consciousness. A filter can break in two ways: it can be clogged, or it can be punctured. According to the filter model of consciousness, when brain damage causes loss of function like amnesia, that is like a clog in the filter. When brain damage produces new mental capabilities, such as ESP or in Acquired Savant Syndrome (see below) that is like a hole in the filter. Furthermore, if you release the conscious mind from the brain as happens during a near death experience you should have expanded, unfiltered, consciousness - which is exactly what happens during a near death experience.
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/skeptical_fallacies#skeptical_fallacies_brain

ESP cannot be produced by the brain:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2014/04/near-death-experiences-and-afterlife.html#facts_esp


Despite my belief that consciousness is non-physical and is not produced by the brain. I am a firm believer that happiness while we are in our bodies has to take into account of the scientific data that show the brain does influence mood, thought, intelligence, etc. Just as information that comes in through our eyes, ears, and other sense organs and is processed by the brain before becoming available to our consciousness, so can some thoughts, emotions, and impulses be produced by the brain.

How is this possible? I don't know for sure but theories have to account for all the data not just the data we like. One theory is that there is an etheric body including an etheric brain so that when we leave the physical body we don't really lose our brain.


Because of the connection between the brain and the mind I am a firm supporter of "hacking the brain". I have an article on my blog about it and I practice it myself.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2018/04/spiritual-living-hacking-your-brain.html


I have routinely used meditation to produce intense states of bliss that rival drug trips. However too much of anything can become tedious. When you can turn on happiness whenever you want you soon realize it is not all its cracked up to be. I prefer a more neutral, relaxed, contented state.


Despite my belief that consciousness is non-physical I also believe that in a sense it is an illusion.

Buddha likened consciousness to a magic trick:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.095.than.html
SN 22.95 PTS: S iii 140 CDB i 951​
Phena Sutta: Foam​
translated from the Pali by​
Thanissaro Bhikkhu​
...​
"Now suppose that a magician or magician's apprentice were to display a magic trick at a major intersection, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a magic trick? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any consciousness that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in consciousness?​
...​

To understand this opinion, consider that you can observe thoughts emotions and impulses as they arise from the unconscious, exist for a time and then fade away. If you can observe them they must be outside you, they cannot be you or yours. They have no substantial existence, they are not real or "reality" they are illusions. You are left with the conclusion that you are just awareness observing thoughts, emotions, and impulses that come from the unconscious. But then consider that you can observe yourself observing. That "observer" is no different from any thought, emotion or impulse, it is an illusion too.

Obviously consciousness exists, we are conscious, but is it what we think it is?

What is consciousness? We are all conscious so in a sense we all know what it is. But in another sense we have no idea. Consciousness is non-physical and we are so biased by our experience in the physical world that have very little ability to conceive of what it could be like in the non-physical realm where time and distance (physical phenomena) do not exist.

Lastly there is the question of individuality and oneness. Oneness and individuality are not mutually exclusive.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/realizing-ultimate.html
 
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#3
This video answers my main question about Webb's work: Has he discovered something new, some kind of short cut, Evidently the answer is "no". He is talking about enlightenment, Buddhist awakening, yoga self-realization, Zen finding your true nature, (he refers to well known teachers as examples). Enlightenment takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time and even then there is no guarantee of success.

I don't have any objection to what he is saying, but I tend to be put off by people who try to make money using marketing techniques, making extravagant claims, for something that is not going to happen for the average person. To me it seems like a scam. To be fair I think most spiritual traditions do this also. Buddhist traditions which I am most familiar with certainly do. Someone new to the subject may find Webb's treatment helpful. But I think it is misleading when something that is well known and ancient ("enlightenment") is marketed in a way that makes it sound like something new and modern (hacking). It tempts people to spend money on something they may already know about. The marketing hype made the books sound interesting so I spent 1 hour of my time needlessly watching a video to find out what Webb's books are about. My feeling is that meditation should be "marketed" in realistic terms (including its limitations and dangers) as a technique that can help you today in proportion to the amount of effort you put in today. In that context meditation has been tremendously helpful to me in my life. But I don't think meditation should be marketed as something that will get you enlightenment some time in the future because it probably won't for the average person. Also what they rarely tell you is that enlightenment is only the beginning, there is still a lot of work that remains after the first experience.


In the video Webb says that existing psychological theories of fear (fear is either learned or hardwired) are not really adequate. He says fear occurs when an attachment of the ego (something that is "me" or "mine"), is threatened. The severity of the fear is related to the strength of the attachment and or the perceived severity of the threat. Examples of attachments include "my body", "my social status", "my grandmother", "my favorite sports team". [I think this is a good way of explaining the relationship between attachments and the ego]

(Something I didn't notice being addressed in the video are cases where fear is caused by a biochemical disorder and exists without any perceived threat to an ego attachment. - Presumably his methods will not help in these situations.)

Webb says, even if you think you are afraid for another person, you are really afraid for yourself - because it is your attachment to the other person, "my friend" that is the cause of your fear.

49:44
"Fear is selfish. Fear is based around and dependent on your ego. And as soon as you understand that better, you will understand that fear is a lot, it's a falsity, it's an illusion because it's based on the false illusory self of the ego."

Web says he feels fear but considers it a challenge to confront his fear. It seems to me this contradicts some of his more extravagant claims. But it is somewhat consistent with what I have heard from many people who have experienced Buddhist awakening: enlightenment does not eliminate emotions, it eliminates your overreaction to them.

50:40 "Personally my fear I see as a green light nowadays to hit the gas and accelerate toward."

63:06 "I experienced the phenomenon of what is called spiritual enlightenment which is one of those experiences that can show you your real you that replaces your false you in your mind so now my life is one without the influence of fear."

Webb says, to analyze your fears, when you feel fear, ask yourself, "What am I attached to, and what is the threat to it?"
If you can change your level of attachment or the perceived severity of the threat you can reduce or eliminate fears.

58:45: "It's when you change the attachments to the ideas of self that you will ultimately take control of every one of your emotional reactions including fear"

The way to end fear is to change your understanding of self so that you have no attachments.

62:47 "Beneath the false view of your mind that you will then be able to replace the false you of your mind with your understanding and experience of the real you which is when all your mindful attachments are removed and which is when fear is then removed from your existence completely and permanently now through meditation and contemplative prayer I experienced the phenomenon of what is called spiritual enlightenment which is one of those experiences that can show you your real you that replaces your false you in your mind.

Webb suggest that next steps include reading his books and taking his on line course.

This answers my main question about his work: Has he discovered something new, some kind of short cut, - I think the answer is "no". He is talking about enlightenment, Buddhist awakening, yoga self-realization, Zen finding your true self. It takes a lot of hard work and even then there is no guarantee of success.

If you want to try to get enlightenment, my free advice is to: relax, stay present, and observe the sensations in your body in order to let go of attachments and aversions. Do this during sessions of sitting meditation and in daily life. If you do this, you should notice benefits that increase gradually and continuously from the first day you begin even if you never attain awakening.

If you want to read a book on the subject I recommend "The Untethered Soul" by Michael Singer. I read the e-book which I borrowed from my public library over the internet. Singer is open from the beginning about the subject he is writing about.


UPDATE:

I think Webb's video had some useful insights. So it's probable there are others in the rest of his work. And I didn't have any objections to how he handled the subject.

In my post I wrote about what I didn't like, which I stand by (it is an at its root an ancient practice that is being hyped and people may feel they are being misled). But that doesn't mean Webb's work is necessarily without merit. I don't like to buy things when I don't know if they are worth the money and I don't trust marketing hype because in my experience it is often used to sell inferior products or products you don't need. But I can say if I could easily borrow his books as e-books from the library I would, or if I was in a book store I would have a look to see if they were worth buying.

(Testimonials are not useful to a prospective purchaser if you don't anything about the person giving the testimonial.)
UPDATE 2:

Part of the problem is that people are constantly under attack by attempts to influence them to buy something or do something. These attacks use the most modern, advanced, and powerful tricks the science of psychology can come up with to influence their victims. If you understand the psychology, you also know that knowledge does not make you immune. (Everyone knows the difference between $9.99 and $10.00 is trivial yet pricing things at $9.99 consistently increases sales.) When you identify attack after attack all day long coming from the internet, mass media, in retail stores, etc you begin to resent it and resist. People trying to make money know what they are doing and they do the cost benefit of using these techniques. If more people would raise the cost by calling them out and resisting we would suffer fewer attacks.

To me it seems to be the ultimate in hypocrisy to use psychological tricks to take money from people while claiming to be interested in the well-being of the public. When you do that it is because you are interested in your own well-being. I understand others may have different opinions, but that is my opinion.

I discussed some of the psychology involved in this post:
http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/i-need-some-help.4125/post-123025
 
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#4
Im still trying to digest this interview with Sean, but Im really enjoying it. I may change my understanding/approach later but I'll help kick start the conversation. Funny thing as I listen and read it. Jeffery Martin and Ken Wilbur come to mind. Also to a lesser degree Dan Harris 10% happier. I agree with Jim Smith above, don't think Sean has been to the mountain top, so to speak. Its just what he says. I'm not seeing a fundamental assertion about how it is and so is more like Jeffery then Wilbur. The book title is perfect for Sean's POV. Its an intellectual treatise on how it all works. I like his conceptual frame work. Its a mind hack essay.
We need as many different books on self discovery to serve all the individual mindsets out there. You know Martin through the Finders Course melds Western psychology practices and Eastern Spirituality and its essentially looking for the same result. Living in presence and negating the mind games.
Ken Wilbur has written like dozens of books and concludes mindset development and maturity is crucial to transcending the mind games. I think Sean mentions something similar, just in a different vernacular. The mind games themselves change to accommodate this shift into higher states of consciousness. When that doesn't occur, you get what Rick Archer has discovered.

Rick who Alex knows very well, they trade guests at times. Has been removing interviews from his inventory of so called awakened folks who have become teachers because of certain exploitive or manipulative behaviors. Ken Wilbur refers to these folks as immature or asymmetrical awakenings. The I thought or narrative self, what Paul Hedderman coined as 'selfing' is seen through but the unconscious automatic program is still running.
I see this asymmetrical behavior often in the Finders Course alumni forum, which has about 5-600 people now. Its not wrong or right but seems to be a stage along the spiritual growth continuum. OK got to go make the donuts i.e. work.
 
#5
I agree with Jim Smith above, don't think Sean has been to the mountain top, so to speak.
I'm not sure what you mean by this or what I said that would give you that impression.

Rick who Alex knows very well, they trade guests at times. Has been removing interviews from his inventory of so called awakened folks who have become teachers because of certain exploitive or manipulative behaviors. Ken Wilbur refers to these folks as immature or asymmetrical awakenings. The I thought or narrative self, what Paul Hedderman coined as 'selfing' is seen through but the unconscious automatic program is still running.
I see this asymmetrical behavior often in the Finders Course alumni forum, which has about 5-600 people now. Its not wrong or right but seems to be a stage along the spiritual growth continuum. OK got to go make the donuts i.e. work.
I think the community of students of spirituality would be better served if teachers stopped telling us that enlightenment means you are a nice person.

It doesn't. Enlightenment does not erase your personality. It means you have ended suffering for yourself, or at least reduced it significantly.

This "feel good fiction" hurts students the most. It makes them vulnerable to predatory teachers and then it takes away teachers who have information that can help others and maybe unique ways of teaching that will be particularly helpful to certain people. But it is also unfair to teachers, who are only human, to demand they live up to standards that are superhuman.

When teachers use terms like immature or asymmetrical awakenings they are just trying to keep power and status for themselves which is what makes students vulnerable in the first place. Perpetuators of this myth play a large role in making abuse possible. If students knew that spiritual teachers were not morally superior they could handle situations the same way college students handle creepy professors - they can get the education they want without putting themselves in vulnerable situations.
 
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#6
Im still trying to digest this interview with Sean, but Im really enjoying it. I may change my understanding/approach later but I'll help kick start the conversation. Funny thing as I listen and read it. Jeffery Martin and Ken Wilbur come to mind. Also to a lesser degree Dan Harris 10% happier. I agree with Jim Smith above, don't think Sean has been to the mountain top, so to speak. Its just what he says. I'm not seeing a fundamental assertion about how it is and so is more like Jeffery then Wilbur. The book title is perfect for Sean's POV. Its an intellectual treatise on how it all works. I like his conceptual frame work. Its a mind hack essay.
We need as many different books on self discovery to serve all the individual mindsets out there. You know Martin through the Finders Course melds Western psychology practices and Eastern Spirituality and its essentially looking for the same result. Living in presence and negating the mind games.
Ken Wilbur has written like dozens of books and concludes mindset development and maturity is crucial to transcending the mind games. I think Sean mentions something similar, just in a different vernacular. The mind games themselves change to accommodate this shift into higher states of consciousness. When that doesn't occur, you get what Rick Archer has discovered.

Rick who Alex knows very well, they trade guests at times. Has been removing interviews from his inventory of so called awakened folks who have become teachers because of certain exploitive or manipulative behaviors. Ken Wilbur refers to these folks as immature or asymmetrical awakenings. The I thought or narrative self, what Paul Hedderman coined as 'selfing' is seen through but the unconscious automatic program is still running.
I see this asymmetrical behavior often in the Finders Course alumni forum, which has about 5-600 people now. Its not wrong or right but seems to be a stage along the spiritual growth continuum. OK got to go make the donuts i.e. work.
nice. I'm reminded of one other former guests whose quote I really liked:

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, well it’s true. I had a guy on the show recently, and the guy was a total, in my opinion, a total pretender in terms of this, kind of, deeply spiritual, kind of, wise kind of guy. So, we kind of got into it a little bit and I said, “Yeah, I’m a yogi,” and he goes, “What kind of yogi? What’s your heritage, what weekend retreat did you go to?” kind of thing, and it’s like, “No man, yogi is a state of mind. It’s a philosophical shift, anyone can be a yogi,” right? Once you’re a yogi, you’re not a yogi anymore, because it transcends that, but I kind of don’t want to get too…

Dr. Donald DeGracia: No, I agree with that completely, yeah, it’s totally a state of mind. Yeah, that’s one of the awkward things about when I talk about yoga, because people ask me what I do, do I practice meditation and things like that. I do Yama and Niyama, that’s what I do, because I’m not advanced enough to do meditation.
 
#7
I think the community of students of spirituality would be better served if teachers stopped telling us that enlightenment means you are a nice person.

It doesn't. Enlightenment does not erase your personality. It means you have ended suffering for yourself, or at least reduced it significantly.
Agreed. There are a host of things which constitute masturbation or spiritual chewing gum - which bear the appearances of enlightenment, but are nothing but an act, posed to deceive self and others. This fits along with the tenet I carry regarding the Wittgenstein basis of good versus evil. (or the variety of other terms which signal enlightenment):

In this realm, evil is a Wittgenstein logical object, however good is not. For the day in which one defines what is good, evil will appropriate it and wear it as a costume.​
Meditation, being nice or holding proper political allegiances regarding compassion for a familiar class of downtrodden - can all be practices of a spiritually developed heart. But most commonly they are simply virtue costumes worn by those who believe that all one has to do, is to adopt the 'good' practices/stances, get upset about inequality or injustices, or divorce one's self from the working world or evil-money and retreat into a figurative cave or mountain top - refusing to play the game, and the heart will be Q.E.D. therefore enlightened too.

A product of our old religions, I suppose - fake enlightenment comes as a byproduct of correctness, compliance and political position... but such a veneer will usually crack - once the person stops being conscious of their 'enlightened actions'.

In the best that I can ascertain in this journey thus far, this is not the way it works.
 
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#8
This video answers my main question about Webb's work: Has he discovered something new, some kind of short cut, Evidently the answer is "no". He is talking about enlightenment, Buddhist awakening, yoga self-realization, Zen finding your true nature, (he refers to well known teachers as examples). Enlightenment takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time and even then there is no guarantee of success.
I broadly agree, which is why I haven't listened to the podcast (maybe I will).
Regarding enlightenment - do you see it as something absolute, or could one find oneself enlightened to different degrees?

Also, I don't see any good reason in principle why there can't be a shortcut to enlightenment. Perhaps the obvious possibility would be if unlimited experiments with psychedelics were possible, some mixture of drugs might get close. BTW, I am not recomending this process.

I don't have any objection to what he is saying, but I tend to be put off by people who try to make money using marketing techniques, making extravagant claims, for something that is not going to happen for the average person. To me it seems like a scam. To be fair I think most spiritual traditions do this also. Buddhist traditions which I am most familiar with certainly do. Someone new to the subject may find Webb's treatment helpful. But I think it is misleading when something that is well known and ancient ("enlightenment") is marketed in a way that makes it sound like something new and modern (hacking). It tempts people to spend money on something they may already know about. The marketing hype made the books sound interesting so I spent 1 hour of my time needlessly watching a video to find out what Webb's books are about. My feeling is that meditation should be "marketed" in realistic terms (including its limitations and dangers) as a technique that can help you today in proportion to the amount of effort you put in today. In that context meditation has been tremendously helpful to me in my life. But I don't think meditation should be marketed as something that will get you enlightenment some time in the future because it probably won't for the average person. Also what they rarely tell you is that enlightenment is only the beginning, there is still a lot of work that remains after the first experience.
Right - I was underwhelmed too!

Webb produces something he calls his equation of emotion:

EP-RP=ER

Which means Expectation - resulting perception = emotional response! That sort of stuff makes me cringe - I mean, you need to evaluate EP and RP as real numbers - which seems a pretty bizarre reductionist idea, and then you compute the emotional response as a real number! Quite apart from the reduction to real numbers, I don't think the 'equation' is always true. For example, suppose you go to the dentist expecting some painful procedure. You sit down, and indeed the procedure is painful - does that mean you have no emotion?
(Something I didn't notice being addressed in the video are cases where fear is caused by a biochemical disorder and exists without any perceived threat to an ego attachment. - Presumably his methods will not help in these situations.)
I wonder if that is true. I remember once a dentist explained that he needed to use some adrenaline on my gums to make them contract. After a few seconds I did feel the characteristic jolt, but it was devoid of any real emotion, except that I found it interesting.

Is this a common problem?
If you want to try to get enlightenment, my free advice is to: relax, stay present, and observe the sensations in your body in order to let go of attachments and aversions. Do this during sessions of sitting meditation and in daily life. If you do this, you should notice benefits that increase gradually and continuously from the first day you begin even if you never attain awakening.

If you want to read a book on the subject I recommend "The Untethered Soul" by Michael Singer. I read the e-book which I borrowed from my public library over the internet. Singer is open from the beginning about the subject he is writing about.
I did get Singer's book, and the early chapters seemed insightful, but then it went down hill for me.

He seems to say that ideally we would observe each experience as it comes along, and then let it go. Well imagine treating a maths lecture as a stream of experiences like that. The whole point is to connect up what has been said in your mind.

David
 
#9
I broadly agree, which is why I haven't listened to the podcast (maybe I will).
Regarding enlightenment - do you see it as something absolute, or could one find oneself enlightened to different degrees?

Also, I don't see any good reason in principle why there can't be a shortcut to enlightenment. Perhaps the obvious possibility would be if unlimited experiments with psychedelics were possible, some mixture of drugs might get close. BTW, I am not recomending this process.
I think shortcuts are possible.

This is supposed to be one.
https://blog.mindvalley.com/studying-brain-with-meditation/
The article is a few years old but it cost $15.000 for 7 days. It involved using brain wave bio-feedback to teach people to mimic the brains waves of enlightened people.


Here is another- a meditation teacher in Burma has an efficient system. I don't think they teach in English.
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/7146949


What I have been told is that meditation can prepare the mind but enlightenment is when you stop using the conception of self that you build starting in infancy and develop into adulthood. When the mind is prepared it can happen, but it happens spontaneously, you can't simply do it by will or through a technique. It's like falling asleep in a way. It is something that you can prepare the conditions for but you have to wait for it to occur naturally.

I also believe there are longcuts - gradual changes that occur slowly over a long period of time so that you don't have a big experience and may not recognize what has happened because it happened so gradually.

Right - I was underwhelmed too!

Webb produces something he calls his equation of emotion:

EP-RP=ER

Which means Expectation - resulting perception = emotional response! That sort of stuff makes me cringe - I mean, you need to evaluate EP and RP as real numbers - which seems a pretty bizarre reductionist idea, and then you compute the emotional response as a real number! Quite apart from the reduction to real numbers, I don't think the 'equation' is always true. For example, suppose you go to the dentist expecting some painful procedure. You sit down, and indeed the procedure is painful - does that mean you have no emotion?

I wonder if that is true. I remember once a dentist explained that he needed to use some adrenaline on my gums to make them contract. After a few seconds I did feel the characteristic jolt, but it was devoid of any real emotion, except that I found it interesting.
If it was cortisol and not adrenaline you would have had a different experience.
Is this a common problem?


I did get Singer's book, and the early chapters seemed insightful, but then it went down hill for me.

He seems to say that ideally we would observe each experience as it comes along, and then let it go. Well imagine treating a maths lecture as a stream of experiences like that. The whole point is to connect up what has been said in your mind.
You have to apply common sense. If Singer were to list every exception and special case his book would be even harder to read than you found it.

 
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#10
You have to apply common sense. If Singer were to list every exception and special case his book would be even harder to read than you found it.
totally agree with you! And I think this is such a great and subtle point about mickey singer's work... i.e. it's practical, pragmatic... it's the voice of a guy who built a billion-dollar business and undoubtedly had to make a lot of tough decisions but at the same time try to keep his spiritual journey foremost in his mind. in the words of another business mentor/teacher " the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing" :)
 
#11
You have to apply common sense. If Singer were to list every exception and special case his book would be even harder to read than you found it.
Yeah, but I really have the maths lecture as an example. Anything complicated requires you to keep quite a lot of information in your head, and keep on referring back. I got the impression that Singer was advocating this for everyday life, but if it was meant only for meditation that would be different - I agree.

David
 
#12
This has been a great interview, perhaps the best in while. And super frustrating too. Sean suggest you can experience time dilation in the context of an NDE, and so the brain IS involved with memory of this other realm. Yeah, uhh, how we don't know how to even begin formulating that into a coherent story in terms of neuroscience.

How can you have 1000 years of experience and not bring back any magical equations that solve hard physics problems? I know I wouldn't even know how to phrase the question, but if you have access to a magical database and 1000 years...


ok that line of thought suggests a red herring, but surely the guest is frustrated too? As he wants it. I want it. Alex, you want it? You want to know something beyond our apparent ability to know too right? So I guess that is what thee mystical states are: representations of what we might become? But without causing world destroying havoc?
 
#13
This has been a great interview, perhaps the best in while. And super frustrating too. Sean suggest you can experience time dilation in the context of an NDE, and so the brain IS involved with memory of this other realm. Yeah, uhh, how we don't know how to even begin formulating that into a coherent story in terms of neuroscience.

How can you have 1000 years of experience and not bring back any magical equations that solve hard physics problems? I know I wouldn't even know how to phrase the question, but if you have access to a magical database and 1000 years...


ok that line of thought suggests a red herring, but surely the guest is frustrated too? As he wants it. I want it. Alex, you want it? You want to know something beyond our apparent ability to know too right? So I guess that is what thee mystical states are: representations of what we might become? But without causing world destroying havoc?
thx. I genuinely like and respect sean, at the same time interesting stuff happens when blind spots are exposed ( mine included :)). what is sean's inability to accept nde science saying?
 
#14
Sean Webb, Understanding Consciousness Can Lead to Happiness |425|
by Alex Tsakiris | Sep 3 | Consciousness Science
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Sean Webb believes he’s cracked the happiness code with neuroscience and consciousness research.
photo by: Skeptiko
Alex Tsakiris:
[00:00:06] Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science and spirituality with leading researchers, thinkers and their critics. As you all know by now, we cover a lot of different topics on Skeptiko, but it seems like we always return to the question of consciousness, and what’s up with that little voice inside your head and why does it seem to always be conspiring to make you unhappy? Well, that’s exactly the question of today’s guest Sean Webb has sought to answer.
As a young smart successful rising star, Sean had achieved everything that should have made him happy, so when he faced the fact that he wasn’t, he decided to find out why. This eventually led to Zen meditation, a deep dive into neuroscience and a spiritual breakthrough that rapidly transformed him from a gun collecting, money driven materialist to a consciousness expert and a spiritual seeker who believes he may have cracked the code to happiness. Sounds good, right?
Well, hold on a minute, because while preparing for this interview, and in true Skeptiko inquiry to perpetuate doubt fashion, I also found some points of disagreement between Sean and I with regard to consciousness. So, what you’re about to hear is an interview with a guy who’s done some truly amazing research and personal transformation work with regard to consciousness and spirituality, but what you might also hear is a good old-fashioned kind of friendly debate among seekers on the path.
This is going to be fun. You rarely find people that are this intelligent and at the same time open, willing to hash things out. Sean, it’s really exciting to have you here on Skeptiko and thanks so much for joining me.
I was not able to discern how Sean's approach differs from age old techniques such as the Observer technique and such as the Buddhist one of putting a pause after one's reactions. I have tried these with minimal breakthroughs and reverted to a long journey of gradual awakening. I believe each of us has his or her own path. I am overjoyed for Sean, but for me there are no short cuts. For me suffering with a teleological approach as to its sacred purposes is my journey. Many thanks Alex for your razor sharp questions.
 
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#15
I was not able to discern how Sean's approach differs from age old techniques such as the Observer technique and such as the Buddhist one of putting a pause after one's reactions. I have tried these with minimal breakthroughs and reverted to a long journey of gradual awakening. I believe each of us has his or her own path. I am overjoyed for Sean, but for me there are no short cuts. For me suffering with a teleological approach as to its sacred purposes is my journey. Many thanks Alex for you razor sharp questions.
right on to that :)
 
#16
thx. I genuinely like and respect sean, at the same time interesting stuff happens when blind spots are exposed ( mine included :)). what is sean's inability to accept nde science saying?
I suspect it is saying that Sean simply wants to sell his product, and doesn't want to get labelled New Age, or whatever, by really delving into the nature of reality. It would be interesting to know what Michael Singer 's answer to that question would be.

David
 
#17
...
The severity of the fear is related to the strength of the attachment and or the perceived severity of the threat. Examples of attachments include "my body", "my social status", "my grandmother", "my favorite sports team". [I think this is a good way of explaining the relationship between attachments and the ego]

...

Webb says, even if you think you are afraid for another person, you are really afraid for yourself - because it is your attachment to the other person, "my friend" that is the cause of your fear.

49:44
"Fear is selfish. Fear is based around and dependent on your ego. And as soon as you understand that better, you will understand that fear is a lot, it's a falsity, it's an illusion because it's based on the false illusory self of the ego."

...
Webb says, to analyze your fears, when you feel fear, ask yourself, "What am I attached to, and what is the threat to it?"
If you can change your level of attachment or the perceived severity of the threat you can reduce or eliminate fears.
I think Webb's video had some useful insights. So it's probable there are others in the rest of his work. And I didn't have any objections to how he handled the subject.

In my post I wrote about what I didn't like, which I stand by (it is an at its root an ancient practice that is being hyped and people may feel they are being misled). But that doesn't mean Webb's work is necessarily without merit. I don't like to buy things when I don't know if they are worth the money and I don't trust marketing hype because in my experience it is often used to sell inferior products or products you don't need. But I can say if I could easily borrow his books as e-books from the library I would, or if I was in a book store I would have a look to see if they were worth buying.

(Testimonials are not useful to a prospective purchaser if you don't anything about the person giving the testimonial.)
 
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#18
thx. I genuinely like and respect sean, at the same time interesting stuff happens when blind spots are exposed ( mine included :)). what is sean's inability to accept nde science saying?
He's a committed empiricist, yet we all know the most venerated scientists are theoreticians.

Also, I really need better grammar and spellcheck.
 
#20
But who really understands consciousness? And by consciousness what is he referring to, thoughts, shadow work? Nietschze dug deep in to the psyche and it might of played a role in him becoming mad. Add to the fact that he had syphillis. From personal experience the more I dig in to my consciousness the more unhappy I become. That's not to say I'm never happy, happiness is fleeting as well as being unhappy, sad, depressed or full of joy
 
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